Guest Author - Debra Stang
I’m not good with mechanical things. While my nieces and nephews can build a computer practically from scratch, I feel lucky to be able to turn the darned thing on and have it work. It’s never a good sign when it doesn’t work well.
A few weeks ago, I noticed my computer drastically slowing down. Instead of loading a webpage in seconds, it was taking minutes. Since I was forced to do a lot of online research and solve my own problem, I thought I’d be nice and pass along the fruits of my labor to you. No use re-inventing the wheel, after all.
Basically, several things can cause a computer to slow down. The most common culprits are:
Computer viruses. I’m not a fan of the death penalty by any means, but I’d be willing to suspend my ideals if the could just catch the culprit who invented the computer virus. Viruses are computer programs that replicate themselves and spread by inserting themselves into documents or other programs. Viruses range from the relatively benign (making a stupid message pop up on your screen, for instance), to the worst-case scenario malignant (erasing your hard drive). A virus will almost always slow down your computer’s function. Your best bet is to prevent viruses entirely by installing reputable anti-virus software like Norton or McAfee.
Spyware. If you’ve ever bought anything online or even clicked on a commercial link, you’ve probably picked up some form of adware or spyware. Adware is responsible for some of those annoying pop-ups and flashing ads. Spyware follows where you go online and reports your internet habits back to a “home base.” Anti-virus software tends to miss these intrusive nuisances, but you can delete adware and spyware by downloading a free program such as Ad-Aware from Lavasoft or Spybot Search and Destroy.
Trojan Horse. A Trojan Horse, named for its predecessor which brought destruction in the form of a gift, is a dangerous program which hides itself in a program that seems benign. One popular Trojan Horse program was hidden in a waterfall screensaver. When someone downloaded the screen saver, the Trojan Horse was activated and began erasing their files. Most anti-virus programs can also detect Trojan Horses.
Running too many programs at once. Computers, like humans, function less effectively when they’re trying to do too much at once. If you have several programs or processes running, close a few and see if your computer doesn’t pick up speed.
Hard Disk Issues. Over time, your hard disk gets “dusty” with deleted items, unused icons, saved internet content, etc. Programs may also be fragmented, which makes the hard disk run ineffectively. To clean up your hard disk (if you have Windows XP) left click on the green “start” button on the lower left-hand corner of your screen. Left click again on the icon that says “Control Panel” (should be on the right-hand side). A screen that says “Pick a Category” will appear. Left click on “Performance and Maintenance.” To clean up your hard drive, click on the arrow that says “Free up space on your hard disk.” To defragment your hard drive, click on the arrow that says, “Rearrange items on your hard disk to make programs run faster.” (For those who are interested, this was the problem with my computer.)
Low memory. Finally, if you like to play computer games with a lot of graphics (or if your grandkids have installed their games on your computer), you may simply be running low on memory. Upgrade the RAM or delete some programs from your computer.